Now that Obamacare is imploding, I guess we’re in for a fresh crop of articles and blog posts pimping  “the best health care system in the world.” Here’s alleged libertarian Matt Welch on the system ranked “best” by the World Health Organization:

In France, you are covered, period. It doesn’t depend on your job, it doesn’t depend on a health maintenance organization, and it doesn’t depend on whether you filled out the paperwork right.

But before we sign on for a cheese-eating, surrender medical system, I think we need a refresher on the actual condition of that system.  Here’s a reminder of what happened to French patients during the very hot summer of 2003:

During an August 2003 heat wave—when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity—15,000 elderly citizens died.

Also, as we hang out at our favorite left bank café, we might want to consider the cancer survival rates that prevail in France. Read the following and think about where you’d like to be if you draw the short straw on prostate cancer:

The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2 percent here [in the United States], yet 61.7 percent in France.

And French health care isn’t free. Indeed, it is so expensive that the system has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for more than a decade. Its ongoing financial crisis was reported in publications like The Guardian as far back as five years ago:

A government commission has warned that without fundamental reforms France’s national health service … will collapse within the next 15 years.

And things have not improved since then. In this 2009 paper on European health systems,  it is made abundantly clear that the French government’s effort to institute these “fundamental reforms? has been an abysmal failure.

Then there’s that “best in the world? ranking promulgated by the World Health Organization. As David Hogberg has pointed out, the W.H.O. methodology includes a criterion that favors countries with government-run health systems:

… not only outcomes like how well a health-care system cures disease, but also something called ‘fairness in financing.’

What the W.H.O. means by “fairness in financing” is “paid for by the taxpayers.” This dubious standard deliberately stacks the deck in favor of systems like France, Canada, the UK, and other places where the actual health care is mediocre.

When the “fairness in financing” criterion is removed, the ranking changes dramatically, and not in France’s favor. So, maybe we had better ignore the clueless effusions of Mr. Welch and emulate another “best” system. Non?

Comments 3

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    Come on – you must be able to do better than this. The French ‘crisis’ story dates from 2004 and no, their healthcare hasn’t collapsed. And you’re again trotting out the completely wrong Gratzer/Giuliani mistakes on cancer survival. As you know, Gratzer didn’t know what he was doing and admitted so, as those miscalculated figures have nothing to do with the real five year survival rates, which are much closer. I’m in Paris next week visiting the Curie Institute – tell you what, I’ll report back if they are in a bad way.

    Posted 17 Dec 2009 at 8:14 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    Well, Marc, I see you’re still parroting the absurd “Gratzer was wrong meme.” That controversy was as phony as a $3 dollar bill. Your side propped up a straw man, knocked it down, and declared victory.

    In reality, he was absolutely right, and thus had no reason “admit” otherwise. And, if you choose not to believe Gratzer because he’s part of the VWRC, then what about Lancet? Are they “wingnuts” as well?

    Posted 17 Dec 2009 at 12:01 pm
  3. COLETTE WILD wrote:

    First, if you speak French, speak it right, Je _ne pense pas..voila. IN THE U.S.. THE DOCTORS CHARGE WAY TOO MUCH, AND THE MEDS PRICES ARE ASTRONOMICAL COMPARED TO OTHER COUNTRIES. I feel lucky because I found an excellent doctor, and, because I was raised in France, I eat proper food, and eat to live, but not live to eat., and exercise, of course. I know French health system is great, and have my whole family to talk about, even American friends, and my husband. This idea the system is ready to collapse… 40 years ago they were already talking about it!

    Posted 06 Apr 2010 at 3:41 pm

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